Identity theft can happen to anyone. Even careful consumers can become victims of this potentially devastating crime. Instead of assuming that identity theft is a problem that only applies to other people, find out what to do in advance to get prepared. Below are the first ten steps to take after determining that identity theft has occurred.
Step #1: Hire a Lawyer
The first thing identity theft victims should do is hire a lawyer. He or she can explain the client’s immediate options and file charges once the perpetrator has been apprehended. Victims can get help at ariccramer.com.
Step #2: Call Fraud Departments
Call the fraud department at any company or bank where the criminal has already performed financial transactions. They may need to close or freeze the compromised accounts.
Step #3: Place Fraud Alerts
Next, call Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. These three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) need to know if identity theft has occurred. Request a one-year fraud alert to make it more difficult for the thief to open new accounts.
Step #4: Place a Security Freeze
CRAs can also provide free copies of credit reports for review and place security freezes on those reports as requested. A security freeze will prevent the CRA from releasing information without express authorization. CRAs can also block credit information accumulated in the course of identity theft.
Step #5: File a Report with the FTC
Victims of identity theft may need to furnish proof to banks and businesses. They can get that proof by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Step #6: Contact the Police
The FTC recommends filing an identity theft report with the local police department. Bring a copy of the FTC report along with a photo ID, proof of address, and documents that prove the identity theft occurred. It’s also wise to request a copy of the police report.
Step #7: Reach Out to the IRS
Not all forms of identity theft are tax-related, but it’s still smart to reach out to the IRS. Any identity thief with access to the victim’s name, Social Security number, and birth date can file for a fraudulent refund. Notifying the IRS of the identity theft will make it easier for them to catch this kind of fraudulent activity.
Step #8: Alert Healthcare Providers
More often than not, perpetrators use identity theft to commit financial fraud. However, they can also use personally-identifying information to receive healthcare services in the victim’s name. Alerting healthcare providers and health insurance companies to identity theft prevents this from happening.
Step #9: Contact the DMV
If the identity thief has obtained a copy of the victim’s license, he or she can use it to impersonate the victim in the real world. Even without the physical license, a driver’s license number is enough to give fraudulent information during a traffic stop or even to manufacture a fake ID. Ask the DMV to place a flag on the license number.
Step #10: Cancel All Fraudulent Accounts
Contact phone and utility companies and any business that has reported fraudulent accounts. Have them closed down and, if necessary, open new ones with different numbers and strong passwords.
Get Back on Track
Becoming the victim of identity theft can be incredibly stressful. The victims have done nothing wrong, but they can be left dealing with the consequences for weeks, months, or even years. Take action immediately to avoid further financial damage.